↓恥ずかしながら今日この記事に気づきました。。


小泉純一郎首相は24日、マレーシアのアブドラ首相と官邸で会談し、石油に代わる代替エネルギー開発で協力することで一致した。
 アブドラ氏が「やし油を活用したバイオテクノロジーや代替エネルギーの開発に取り組みたい」と協力を呼び掛けたのに対し、首相は原油価格高騰への懸念を示した上で「バイオテクノロジーを使った新エネルギー分野の協力を進めていきたい」と応じた。
 また、アブドラ氏は昨年両国が合意した経済連携協定に関連、相互貿易の拡大に期待を示した。

(共同通信) - 5月24日18時42分更新
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20/10/05 KUALA LUMPUR (Dow Jones) - Recent optimism of surging demand for palm oil as a fuel substitute in Europe may be overdone as there are still major obstacles to the use of the commodity in this emerging sector, a European bio-fuels industry official said.

As the cheapest edible oil in the world, palm oil does have a bright future as an alternative to conventional mineral oil.


But for now it is premature to expect huge volumes to be consumed - at least not for another year or so, said Ard van de Kreeke, managing director of Dutch bio-fuels trading company Biox Group BV.

"Yes, there is a future (for palm oil). But it's not the sort of thing which is going to happen the next month or next year. It's a long-term thing," he said in an interview.

"It's a market that is slowly developing, but, that is, at the moment, highly overestimated," he said.

Rising crude oil prices in recent months have spurred intense speculation in the palm oil industry of a boom in demand for palm oil for burning purposes, particularly from major bio-fuel users such as Europe.

Those hopes triggered a run-up in benchmark Malaysian crude palm oil futures prices which reached six-month highs in September, though the market has since relinquished some of its gains.

Van de Kreeke said the rally is unwarranted as the market is expecting too much, too soon. In reality, the current consumption scenario for palm oil fuel in Europe isn't all that dramatic.

The bulk of the palm oil that is being used is in the form of palm fatty acid distillate as bio-mass for power plants, as opposed to bio-diesel for motor vehicles, where indigenous rapeseed oil has a virtual monopoly.

"Today, what you see for palm oil is that there is an existing market (for palm bio-mass). People may be talking about millions of tons of palm oil, but the actual total which went into energy is 500,000 tons (a year)," Van de Kreeke said.

"That market (emerged) a year ago and volume is now stable (but) not growing at all. And to be honest, in the last two months, that market has been very much under pressure," he added.

Environment Concerns Hurting Palm Oil

Biox is one of Europe's biggest suppliers of bio-fuels to the energy industry.

To be sure, the company believes in palm oil's long-term potential as demonstrated by the company's aggressive expansion plans, which include the building of power plants using palm oil.

However, in the short term, there are crucial unresolved issues inhibiting palm oil's market penetration, Van de Kreeke said.

Within the bio-mass sector, growing criticism about the palm oil industry's environmental-related practices is one of the key stumbling blocks.

The pressure on the palm oil bio-mass market witnessed in the last two months has been partly because of such concerns.

"The whole perception on palm oil has been very negative the last couple of months because all the NGOs are focussing on the sustainability issue," he said.

Environment and conservation groups, especially those in Europe and the U.S., have frequently slammed palm oil producers Malaysia and Indonesia for destroying rain-forests and wildlife to clear land for plantations.

The criticisms have intensified this year just as palm oil is set to overtake other oils such as soy oil to be the world's main vegetable oil in terms of production.

Van de Kreeke said the palm oil industry needs to answer the sustainability questions before it can make significant inroads into the European energy market.

Uncertainty over subsidies is also restricting growth of palm oil in the bio-mass sector.

Van de Kreeke said the use of vegetable oils in power plants in Europe is highly dependent on the extent of subsidies given by governments to promote renewable, or "green" energy sources.

"There is a big gap between what is feasible with and without subsidies," he said, adding that clear, long-term subsidy schemes were still not in place in many European countries.

If anything, the most recent development on subsidies has been rather ominous.

The Dutch government unveiled in early October plans to cut subsidies for bio-mass energy projects, saying such ventures were now profitable and no longer needed government support.

That is potentially bad news for palm oil as the Netherlands accounts for about 70%-to-80% of the palm oil bio-mass currently being used in Europe.

"That means 70%-to-80% of the existing market for palm oil is coming under pressure," he said.

Palm Diesel Not Feasible Without Subsidies

As for fuel used in the transport sector, more commonly known as bio-diesel, sustainability and subsidies are also the main factors impeding palm oil's breakthrough.

"Today, bio-diesel from palm oil is not feasible. Bio-diesel is very much focussed on rapeseed oil, which is subsidized by the government," Van de Kreeke said.

"We would definitely like to build a palm oil bio-diesel plant if the market is there. But today it is difficult," he said.

Market talk of millions of tons of palm oil going toward bio-diesel use, therefore, appears far-fetched for now, as it is difficult to foresee European governments supporting a product that is in direct competition with indigenous oils, he noted.

His comments mirror those made recently by other European industry officials.

During a recent conference in Malaysia, Raffaello Garofalo, secretary general of the European Biodiesel Board, said environmental concerns and agriculture policies are likely to limit room for palm oil use in the European bio-diesel market.

Van de Kreeke added that the success of palm oil diesel is also dependent on mineral oil prices staying at high levels.

He said for palm oil diesel to be economically viable, without subsidies, crude oil needs to stay above $60 a barrel.

Biox Has Long-Term Expansion Plans

Still, palm oil's price advantage over other oils makes it an attractive proposition for bio-fuels for the longer-term once subsidy and sustainability issues are resolved.

"Palm oil is a very good bio-mass because the cost price per ton is very low if you compare to soy, rapeseed and other vegetable oils," Van de Kreeke said.

Biox's confidence in palm oil's prospects has prompted the company to embark on a project to build three 50-megawatt power plants in the Netherlands, which when ready in 2007, will each use up to 100,000 tons of palm oil a year.

The company has already signed contracts with Malaysian producers to fix its palm oil supply for 10 years for the plants. Subsidies and the selling price of the electricity produced have also been fixed for 10 years, Van de Kreeke said.

As part of preparations to handle larger volumes, Biox has also bought a tank terminal in Rotterdam and is building another one in Vlissingen, where the company is headquartered.

Biox is set to officially launch its Malaysian office in November, and in the longer term, has plans to expand upstream into plantations as part of measures to ensure consistent supply.
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22/10/05 (The Star) - Biofuel is being touted as the next big thing in an energy-stingy world. Malaysia is jumping on the bandwagon with its palm oil derivative.
THE country's solution to rising fossil fuel prices, worsening air pollution and the depletion of its petroleum reserves is grown on trees - oil palm trees, that is.


All it takes is just to blend processed liquid palm oil with petroleum diesel and, lo and behold, we have palm biofuel.

The cocktail is cheap, particularly as world oil prices rise, produces less carbon monoxide and is renewable. Really, the technology involved is not much more complex than getting the mix right.

In fact, the first diesel engine created by Rudolf Diesel in 1897 ran on peanut oil.

Diesel-powered vehicles can switch to palm biofuel without any modifications to the engine and any deterioration in performance. If the National Biofuel Policy, to be unveiled next year, goes according to plan, users can fill up their vehicles with palm biofuel at petrol kiosks in 2007.

Once implemented, Malay-sia is expected to reduce diesel imports by 500,000 tonnes a year based on current usage.

"Depending on the price, the country is going to save millions of ringgit on subsidies. The Government has spent some RM16 billion on petrol and diesel subsidies," says Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin. At about RM1,400 per tonne, palm oil is also cheaper than imported diesel which costs between RM1,700 and RM2,000 per tonne.

Besides cleaner emissions and renewability, the use of palm biofuel can help support the price of crude palm oil, of which Malaysia is the world's biggest producer.

Malaysian Palm Oil Association chairman Datuk Sabri Ahmad says biodiesel is the "safety valve" for crude palm oil, which until recently has been dogged by fluctuating prices.

After the recent interest generated by biofuel, CPO prices bounced from RM1,350 early this year to nearly RM1,450.

The case for using biodiesel also gains currency against the backdrop of the country's fast-depleting petroleum reserves. At last count, these reserves amount to 4.8 billion barrels, which can last another 16 years unless new discoveries are made.

But while it makes economic sense to introduce palm biofuel at the pumps, it is at the global level that the commodity can gain a reputation as renewable liquid gold.

Many signatory countries to the Kyoto Protocol are rushing to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.

In the European Union, the diesel consumed must consist of 5.75 per cent biodegradable oil by 2010, up from the 2.5 per cent now.

All these could spell an upswing in demand for palm biofuel, especially since production of other agricultural oils like rapeseed and soyabean has been stretched.

"If Malaysia can export 750,000 metric tonnes of biodiesel per year, we can earn RM1.7 billion," says Sabri, who is also group chief executive of Golden Hope Plantations Bhd.

Palm oil is also highly competitive. Sabri says one hectare of oil palm can produce five tonnes of oil, compared to soyabean and rapeseed, which can only produce half a tonne.

The production costs of palm oil is also about 40 per cent lower than other biofuel sources.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Board wants a share of this lucrative pie. It is setting up joint-ventures to build two biodiesel plants in Port Klang and one in Pasir Gudang - presumably for easy access to the two ports.

The first major overseas supply deal, with German-based train operator Prignitzer Eisenbahn (PE) Arriva to fuel its locomotives, is being negotiated.

But Malaysia still has a long way to go to become the Saudi Arabia of biofuel.

Even at the local level, palm biofuel is not yet attractive to vehicle owners despite its environmental-friendly properties for one reason: price.

Right now, palm biofuel costs more than subsidised diesel at the pumps.

Pan Malaysia Bus Operators' Association president Datuk Ashfar Ali says unless there is a significant price difference, vehicle owners have no compelling reason to switch.

"But if the Government reduces its subsidy for diesel and makes biofuel relatively cheaper, then it's a different story. For many businesses, it is about the bottom line.

"But there is also the question of availability. Look at what happened to NGV (natural gas for vehicles). It is only largely available in the Klang Valley and that, too, only at selected kiosks. That is why buses are not using NGV now."

Tariff structures in the EU countries, Japan and the United States are also putting palm biofuel at a disadvantage.

Last August, TSH Resources group managing director Datuk Kelvin Tan had pointed out that palm oil-based biofuel was not enjoying the same tax rebates as rapeseed, soyabean or sunflower.

Palm oil has also been the target of consumer campaigns in the West. The last one, which started in the United Kingdom, blamed rising demand for palm oil for the loss of the orang utan's natural habitat.

Lobby groups in the developed countries have a knack for making their Governments cave in to pressure and the graphic portrayal of maimed orang utans is but one such attempt.

M.R. Chandran of Oilpalmworld Sdn Bhd, which runs a business-to-business palm oil exchange, says that sometimes it feels like a Catch-22 situation. On the one hand, palm biofuel is considered an environmental-friendly product, but on the other, there is a perception that increased demand causes the destruction of natural resources.

Chin, however, allays fears that more forests will be cleared and hillslopes slashed to make way for oil palm plantations and export earnings.

He adds that Malaysia will focus on improving farm management, adopting good husbandry practices and increasing processing efficiency.

Despite the mounting opposition, the EU is not expected to keep palm biofuel at arm's length for long.

With rapeseed and soyabean oils unable to meet demand and World Trade Organisation (WTO) rulings prohibiting unfair tariffs, it is only a matter of time before palm oil competes on a level playing field with its traditional rivals.

But will Malaysian vehicles make a beeline for biofuel in 2007 or, for that matter, will petrol companies want to sell what is now a more expensive product than conventional diesel?

"We are drafting several legislations, including the Biodiesel Bill. Issues like price, proportion of blending involved and whether to compel petrol companies to sell the blend will be addressed," says Chin.

He declines to say to what extent the Government is prepared to make palm biofuel more competitive by reducing diesel subsidies.

"The biggest challenge is to convince consumers to accept biofuel. The ministry will undertake a major public relations exercise to educate the public on this," says Chin.

For now, he says, the Government wants to focus on laying the groundwork for the country to capture a big slice of the biofuel market, in and especially outside the country.

"It is a big thing. Demand will increase in the future and we do not want to lose out."
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